Penn Community Grieves and Unites After Terror

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A defiantly bright pot of sunflowers sat on the stage of Irvine Auditorium, as the Glee Club lifted its collective voice in a soft lament: 
    Oh, my Lord, what a morning 
    When the stars began to fall
    One day after the worst terrorist attack in the nation’s history, more than a thousand students, staff, and faculty gathered together for an interfaith service of remembrance, seeking to make sense of the horror through prayer, silent reflection, music, and words. 

Wharton, which has numerous ties to New York’s financial district, held its own vigil for the victims of the Trade Center attacks. Photo by Tommy Leonardi 

    “The course of America’s history has changed forever,” said University President Judith Rodin CW’66. “The world we knew before the awful events of September 11, 2001, is gone. But we have the power to transmute the most horrific national catastrophe into a resolve for moral action that establishes the primacy of goodness in the world. 
    “We can and we will emerge from this ordeal, sadder, to be sure, but richer in compassion and wisdom, and more determined to affirm the best of our common humanity.”
    “As we consider our fears in the darkness in which we find ourselves at this juncture,” said University Chaplain William Gipson, “perhaps we will glean some possibility for the future and for strong hope” from the words of South African statesman Nelson Mandela:
    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inept. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagining. It is our light, and not our darkness, that most frightens us … And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.”
    Though the terrorist attacks occurred miles away from Locust Walk, their effects were felt viscerally around Penn’s campus and throughout its alumni community. As the Gazette went to press last month, 14 alumni were confirmed dead (please see p. 86). About 300 alumni had worked in or near the World Trade Center. 
    In the days following the tragedy, the University mobilized to help alumni get information about classmates, provide counseling, collect donations for relief efforts, and offer faculty experts to comment on the events and their ramifications for international security and American civil liberties.
v The Office of Alumni Relations reached out to alumni and undergraduates with a message board on its Web site (www., where updates, both reassuring and tragic, were posted: A College alumnus who missed a morning meeting on the 81st floor of one of the towers due to his wife’s knee surgery. A memorial service planned for a Wharton alumnus who had been at Windows on the World on September 11, and was still missing. 
    A special event was planned in New York for October 29, to be held in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, to give alumni living and working in the city a chance to come together in person and hear selected faculty members discuss different aspects of the tragedy and its aftermath.
    Many alumni chose to deal with the tragedy by immersing themselves in volunteer work. Ali Shapiro C’91 WG’97, who works in the publishing industry, set up a volunteer clearinghouse <> and recruited many Wharton MBA and Penn undergraduate alumni to help New York’s business community rebuild.
    “I felt I had to do something,” Shapiro said. “I was going through the same process that so many people were, saying, ‘Gosh, me and my MBA. If only I could have been a fireman. If only I could have been a nurse.’ Then I began to think about what else would have to happen to recover from the tragedy. I started to think about what I had to offer as an MBA and how the business community was going to be so incredibly affected”—not just corporations, but shoe-shiners and other small businesses near the towers that had to be shut down. “The impact clearly ripples beyond the people who worked in those towers.”
    While some alumni volunteers were able to offer “entire days” (courtesy of layoffs in the world), others have managed to take time off work or volunteer on nights or weekends. One week Shapiro and other alumni staffed the call center for Cantor Fitzgerald, a company that lost 700 of its 1,000 employees in the World Trade Center attacks.
    “I think people feel like they’ve given something back in a very hands-on way,” she said. “It feels more rewarding in some ways than writing a check and sticking it in the mail.”
    Back on campus, classes were cancelled on September 11, and non-essential employees were sent home. Describing her response to the events, Julie Garson C’05 wrote in The Daily Pennsylvanian that she left class the next day and went to Hillel: “I needed support. I wanted to pray. I wanted to scream. I thought I might faint. I wanted to break something. I wanted someone to hold me, and convincingly say that everything would be okay.”
    Upon learning of the tragedy, The Daily Pennsylvanian shifted its news coverage from a water-main break affecting two college houses and the relocation of an indie-rock music club, sending its reporters to New York to give firsthand accounts of the devastation at Ground Zero. September 11 “was a day that will profoundly change the world which we will all soon lead,” a DP editorial stated, adding, “We at Penn must react with compassion, support, and an unwavering dedication to rebuild, re-energize and return to the way of life that was shattered with the first airplane hijacking yesterday morning.”
    “Whether or not we are individually affected,” Rodin wrote in a letter to the parents of Penn students, “we are all victims and survivors of Tuesday’s events, and at Penn, we are working as a community to strengthen each other to meet and overcome collectively the difficult challenges that lie ahead.” Rodin cited the steps the University was taking to “meet the needs, worries, and concerns of our students”—and all members of the Penn community—including keeping Houston Hall open around the clock to provide counseling services, phones, news, and information, and putting the Penn Police emergency-response team on full alert. Penn’s senior administrators cancelled a strategic planning retreat that had been scheduled for that week in order to conduct emergency meetings. The University trustees postponed their committee meetings. And it was far from business as usual at the Wharton School, which has numerous ties to New York’s financial district. “Recruiting is normally such a big deal,” John C. Bishop VII, a Wharton MBA student told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “But a lot of students now feel it’s inappropriate to even think about.”
    Following the attacks, the University closed Locust Walk permanently to non-emergency vehicles, stating that it had been considering this option for some time as part of a general plan to improve campus safety. Penn’s Division of Public Safety adopted a policy that would require students, faculty, and staff to wear their identification cards at all times in campus buildings. Public Safety officials said the policy—unpopular with many students, according to the DP—was unrelated to the terrorist attacks.
    After learning that the FBI might be seeking information from universities about students, particularly international students, in its investigation of the terrorist attacks, Provost Robert Barchi Gr’72 M’72 GM’73 notified schools and centers that any such requests should be forwarded to the General Counsel’s Office for review “to ensure that important privacy protections are preserved.” 
    Wharton planned a memorial to World Trade Center victims that will ultimately be placed in Huntsman Hall upon the building’s completion. Student Financial Services organized Operation Brotherly Love, a relief drive for rescue workers and those who lost loved ones. Minority groups across campus launched a Harmony Campaign to fight discrimination against Arab-Americans and South-Asians [see “Notes from the Undergrad,” p. 16].
    Tolerance and peace were central themes in the remembrance service held at Irvine. Chaplain Gipson led the invocation, and three other clergy members—a rabbi, a Roman Catholic priest, and a Muslim imam—shared reflections from their faiths: 
    “Conflict leads to nothing but conflict,” said Imam Kenneth Nur-id Din, of Majlis Ash-Shura. “We need to establish peace within ourselves first. Then it becomes much easier for us to recognize the best way to respond to the insult which we are all feeling right now, because we don’t want the insult to be something we just react to. We want the insult that produced the tragedy to quicken us, to look to those policies that are meaningful and that bear the fruit that we all hope for.”
    Rabbi Howard Alpert, representing Hillel, said: “In the Talmud the rabbi is asked, ‘Why did God make mankind from a single being?’ They answered, ‘So that no person can ever go to another and say my people is greater than your people, my ancestors were greater than your ancestors.’”
    Two days after the attack, the School of Arts and Sciences hosted a faculty symposium, “Responding to Terrorism,” at Irvine Auditorium.
    Dr. Brendan O’Leary, visiting professor in Penn’s political-science department and chair of the Department of Government at the London School of Economics, urged Americans to take a step back from the passions of the moment. “The U.S.A. and NATO and their allies cannot sensibly go to war against Islam, or against Islamic believers, and to start to engage in public discourse of that type would simply make it more likely to lead to extensive repetitions of what has just occurred,” he said. “The U.S. must organize with its allies to bring the perpetrators to justice. But think carefully before supporting large-scale retaliatory jihads.
    “I do not speak as a pacifist,” O’Leary said. “I welcome an interventionist America, from the Balkans to Africa, depending, of course, upon the purposes of the interventions. But through rage, an incensed America may act against its long-term values and interests. Killing civilians is wrong, and that applies both to terrorists and to governments.”
    O’Leary added that the U.S. must also appraise its policies in the Middle East and the Islamic worlds. Though he believes the United States has been “scapegoated and demonized absurdly” there, O’Leary argues that at least some of the scorn has been earned by an American foreign policy that “before and after the Cold War, has propped up authoritarian regimes” and has, “to the abiding humiliation of the Islamic world, supported Israel, right or wrong—and Israel is not always right.”
    Secondly, he said, the United States needs to step up its prevention efforts against terrorism. “Your airports, domestically, are the laxest that I have experienced—that is because your decision-makers have put commerce ahead of personal security, and because they have chosen not to have rail networks that would make you less dependent upon planes. Be prepared to argue for slower planes and more trains.”
    Though immigration policies, border patrols, and internal-surveillance mechanisms need to be enhanced, O’Leary said, the United States should “be careful not to suffer from the illusion of fortress America” and antagonize its neighbors Mexico and Canada, or launch witch hunts against certain populations. “On Monday [September 10], over 99.9999 percent of Americans of Islamic faith or of Arabic or Central Asian origin would have cooperated in reporting to the authorities anything they knew of these planned atrocities. The test of a good security policy is that they will feel exactly the same way in the future.”
    According to Dr. Arthur Waldron, the Lauder Professor of International Relations, the attacks of September 11 represent “perhaps the most catastrophic American intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor.” 
    He cited two problems with U.S. intelligence agencies. “The first is a preference for technical means—i.e., satellites, communications monitoring, and so forth, which produces vast amounts of material. The second is a failure to sufficiently emphasize humint—human intelligence.” Waldron quoted one intelligence specialist who had been interviewed by The Financial Times, as saying, “The CIA probably doesn’t have a single, truly qualified, Arabic-speaking officer of Middle Eastern background who can play a believable Muslim fundamentalist who would volunteer to spend years of his life with shitty food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan. For Christ’s sake, most case officers live in the suburbs of Virginia. We don’t do that kind of thing.”
    Though it’s tempting to take some kind of action, Waldron warned against “a firepower demonstration, in which it is shown that advanced aircraft and missiles in large quantities can, in fact, utterly obliterate some wretched shepherd’s hut in the mountains of Afghanistan, or kill thousands of mountain goats, or worse still, thousands of innocent civilians.

Dr. Robert Vitalis, associate professor of political science, at a symposium on terrorism. Photo by Stuart Watson

    Instead, he said, we must reconstruct the terrorist operation to determine “how it was carried out and by whom, and what we did wrong to allow it to happen. Then we have to go to our allies, and not-so-allies, and talk about joint action … Finally, once we have unraveled the whole thing, we eliminate the terrorist network, root and branch, and kill the people responsible for the murder of innocent Americans.”
    Dr. Ian Lustick, the Merriam Term Professor of Political Science and a member of Penn’s Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict, challenged the notion that the abandonment of human intelligence was to blame for the lack of warning the U.S. had before the attacks. “It’s virtually impossible to infiltrate these organizations,” he said. “We must rely heavily on electronic and other remote means, but what can and must change is the relationship between the externally directed reconnaissance apparatus in the CIA, DIA, and NSA, and the internally directed law-enforcement apparatus: the FBI.” In Lustick’s view, “organizational rivalries combined with understandable concerns about civil liberties” appear to be “interfering with the effective coordination of our own capabilities.” (A few days after those remarks, in the course of his September 20 address to a joint session of Congress, President Bush appointed Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge to serve as head of the Office of Homeland Security, a new cabinet-level office that will coordinate these agencies’ efforts to prevent terrorist attacks.)
    Seth Kreimer, a Law School professor and expert on constitutional law, emphasized that America’s defense “should not come at the cost of the very ideals that make it worth defending.”
    “When the enemy is faceless,” he said, “we are tempted to see the enemy’s face in those who resemble him. Sadly, America has been down this track before,” when 120,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
    Sounding a caution about personal privacy, he added that America must also take care in any investigative measures it allows the government to put into place “in the interests of national security,” because “we will live with them for years into the future.
    “We have been attacked and that attack has been made easier by the openness of our society; we have been put in fear and that fear is more difficult to dispel because of our idealism,” Kreimer said. “But that openness and idealism are the basis of our strength and our hope; we must not purchase today’s peace of mind by abandoning the liberty of our future.”


Since the events of September 11, alumni and friends of the University of Pennsylvania have expressed a desire to do something meaningful for survivors. Many have looked to the University as a symbol of both enduring values and hope for the future. They have asked what the Penn community can do to memorialize those who were lost and to help their families.
    The University has created The Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of those who lost their lives as a result of the attacks on September 11, 2001. The Memorial Scholarship Fund will provide financial assistance for undergraduate students at Penn, with a preference for spouses and children of those killed on September 11. It will assist future generations in acquiring the kind of education that will help them achieve their personal goals and improve their world. The Fund is an affirmation of the intellectual and humanistic values that are so vital to our University and to the world community.
    Members of the Penn family might also want to consider making memorial gifts to the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict. Established in 1998, the Center is dedicated to understanding and ameliorating the ethnopolitical violence that is taking such an enormous toll in today’s world. The mission of the Center is to bring the highest level of talent and commitment to bear on uncovering and explaining the phenomena underlying these violent intergroup struggles. The September 11 attacks and subsequent events have made clear the need for such study.
    Anyone interested in contributing to The Memorial Scholarship Fund should contact Joanne Hanna at (215) 898-4551 or at <>. For gifts to the Solomon Asch Center, contact Jean-Marie Kneeley at (215) 898-5262 or at <>.

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